What's Left

July 7, 2003

Bwana Bush goes to Africa

By Stephen Gowans

You'd think after having just blasted away thousands of Iraqis in an illegal war based (to put it charitably) on twisted intelligence, that the Bush administration would be a tad reticent about claiming, as US National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice has, that its foreign policy is motivated by the wish to make life better for people around the world.

Boldness like that could make you a laughing stock, especially when the corporations that bankroll and act as the personnel department for the people who run your foreign policy are so obviously licking their chops at the splendid spread your business-friendly war has just laid on. There are roads and bridges to rebuild, telephone networks to set up, a constabulary and army to train, a new school curriculum to design and implement, and tons of state-owned companies to buy up at knock down prices.

Oh, and there's cruise missiles to replenish and ordinance to be restocked and new bombers and tanks to be built.

And there's oil.

Doubtlessly, this orgy of new business opportunities (courtesy of taxes paid by ordinary Americans and the proceeds from the sale of oil Iraqis nominally own but have no control over) have immense benefits for people around the world, if by people you mean Americans who own and control firms like Bechtel. Bechtel's chairman, former US Secretary of State George Shultz, is the head of the "Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a fiercely pro-war group with close ties to the White House." Bechtel will pocket a king's ransom rebuilding what the Pentagon--using weapons manufactured by Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, Boeing and General Electric, among other gods of the American corporate pantheon--razed to the ground.

Mars, remarked historian Jacques Pauwels, is "the patron saint of the American economy or, more accurately, the godfather of the corporate Mafia that manipulates this war-driven economy and reaps its huge profits." ("Why America needs war," April 30, 2003, www.indymedia.be .)

But the Bush administration, like Mars, is anything but reticent, and if it has a strong suit, or, at least a strong leaning, it's toward boldness, both in action and words.

So it is that Rice can say, without showing the tiniest bit of shame (a burden she apparently has never had to bear) that her immediate supervisor, George W.  "understands that America is a country that really does have to be committed to values and to making life better for people around the world."

Were that not bold enough, Rice, the woman who has an oil tanker named after her, suffers, or more precisely, wants the rest of us to suffer, from the delusion that, "That's what the world looks to America to do." If memory serves, it isn't "make life better for us" that Iraqis have been chanting before the gates of the palace Saddam Hussein once luxuriated in and L. Paul Bremer III, dictator-in-country, now inhabits. Instead, it's something like: "Get the hell out of here you bastards."

With her boss about to embark on a week-long trip to the place from which her ancestors were dragged kicking and screaming, Rice points out that "Africa is part of America's history" and that "slavery was, of course, America's birth defect."

This trip, we're to believe, is necessary to deal with the consequences of that birth defect, though one would think that applying a balm to the wounds of slavery would be best done at home, to the victims and their ancestors, and not in the places from which they were torn.

But then Rice's twaddle is simply cover for doing what US foreign policy has always done  -- seek out new trade and profit-making opportunities for US firms. Which means, if Africa is part of America's past, it's about to become part of corporate America's future, and, judging by history, the US will spare no expense, in military intervention, proxy wars, subversion, assassination, coups, dirty-tricks, bribery, and destabilization, to get its African future.

Bush, says the New York Times, intends to encourage "African nations to continue the struggle toward free elections and free markets," which is true enough, though it should be understood that free markets are markets the US is free to meddle in to ensure the right people (US investors) make handsome profits, while free elections are those the US is free to meddle in to ensure the right people (those who favor free markets) get elected.

Encouraging elections, it should be said, serves two functions: First, it allows Washington to crow about its commitment to democracy around the world (richly on display in Iraq these days, where elections are banned for fear the wrong sort of people might be elected); second, it allows Washington to buy the outcome of the contest by bankrolling quislings, media and NGOs, so Washington, or more precisely, the US corporate Mafia, doesn't have to deal with the unpleasant part of electoral democracy -- the election of people who aren't so keen on free markets. Of course, there are ways to deal with socialists and nationalists and populists who get elected, despite the best efforts, covert and overt, of the US foreign policy establishment. If you know of a good clairvoyant, you might try to channel Salvador Allende's ghost. He'll tell you.

"Africa," America's newspaper of record says, is "the world's last largely untapped market," and, even better, "Africa's substantial oil reserves could play a larger role in fueling the American economy and perhaps serving as a counterweight to the influence of OPEC."

Now you know whence comes Bwana Bush's interest in Africa.

And don't forget "the Pentagon's interest in forging closer military ties" with African nations -- which means the promise of more arms sales abroad for the US manufacturers of guns, bullets, tanks, helicopter gunships, warplanes, and, oh yes, for the deserving, weapons of mass destruction. Plus the Pentagon gets to play rich uncle to the local military just in case the satraps get the idea that free markets aren't such a great idea after all and need a military coup, or the threat thereof, to remind them of the benefits free markets deliver (lavish riches in New York and LA, and slums, sweatshops, and IMF austerity programs at home.)

And so Bush heads into Africa, issuing ukases, top enforcer for the US corporate Mafia. "Mugabe, step down!" he commands. "Taylor, out!"

Mugabe's name, for most, will ring a bell. Farm seizures. A stolen election. An authoritarian thug who stands by while angry mobs beat the tar out of white farmers. At least, that's what's said in the Western media. How much is real, how much hyperbole, how much pure fiction, is hard to know. If you're sitting in your living room in New York or Toronto or London, leafing through your newspaper, you have two choices. You can believe it all, or you can ask questions.

Charles Taylor -- the embattled president of Liberia -- is less well known. There have been fewer stories about him in the Western press, though it's clear that, he, like Mugabe, is being portrayed as a sulfurous fellow. Don't bother trying to figure out what Taylor's about. All you'll learn from the media is that he's been indicted on war crimes. That's it. No context. No background. All the better to make America's foreign policy goats appear to be monsters motivated by pure malice.

Why does Bush want Taylor and Mugabe gone? Well, you can believe what Rice says about Bush being "committed to making life better for people around the world." But then Rice, like every other member of the Bush administration, said Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction, and he wasn't.

With Africa as "the world's last largely untapped market," and with its substantial oil reserves, I'm betting Bush is supremely indifferent to Taylor and Mugabe being threats to democracy and a better life for the people of Africa (if indeed they are) and is more concerned about them being threats to something else Bush, and presidents before him, hold dear -- the profits of American firms.

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